Monday, May 28, 2007

On Article XII, the Chamber and Tina Sablan

Ricky Delgado in his recent letter mentioned the absurdity of Article XII, the law that limits who can own land here, and noted land prices in Hawaii are through the roof and how Saipan would benefit from fee simple real estate. I just read Frank say on Angelo's blog, there's "nothing wrong" with it, which I know is the prevailing view here on that issue. People think they'll get a free house, free land, free sounds good, so keep it. If I didn't have land, and was indigenous, I'd probably like it. If I owned land already, I wouldn't. As someone who generally believes in economic freedom and treating adults as adults, not children who can't handle their own economic affairs, I think it has to go.

There is something very wrong with Article XII. I've heard from multiple good sources that the few local families with money are buying all the land up now on the cheap from the economically desperate. I'll make the prediction that they'll use their political influence to end Article XII and they just created their own personal money machine. It makes good business sense to do this. I'd buy land now, too. It makes sense to buy things when they're cheap. The problem is land is cheap because of Article XII and the lousy economy, so it is practically being given away. Wall Street couldn't create a scheme as good as this one since Wall Street hasn't created a law that upends the first principle of economics: Supply and Demand.

If a business could only legally sell M&M's to people 6'4'' and above with nine toes, would they sell more M&M's? Would there be demand to drive the price up? Do you think the land owners, once they get as much land as they can on the cheap in this cataclysmically poor economy with 46 percent plus in poverty, will leave all that free money just sitting out there uncollected? Do you think these people won't have the influence to change this stupid law? Post Article XII, which will happen, are they going to say to the average Sablan, Villagomez or Babauta, you're Chamorro, I'll give it to you for a discount from the market rate. Haven't the garment factories proven over the last twenty years that it isn't that hard to buy off this government to do the bidding of the few connected people versus the interests of the majority, who live in poverty according to the legal definition. The last count in the U.S. census was 46 percent in 2000, and you can bet the rent that number hasn't gotten better. Someone has to wake up here.

When Article XII ends, the price of land will go up a lot overnight. One of the reasons the U.S. economy hasn't imploded from war, massive budget and trade deficits, income disparities and a Neanderthal in office, is the fact that homes have increased in value dramatically over the last few years, which is now cooling off. People have borrowed against that value via home equity loans to go out and buy ipods, dinners, vacations and whatever else they want, an invaluable economic tool that is non-existent here. Spending money moves an economy, and to spend money you need to have money. How do we get it: Wages (often lousy here), borrowing (virtually impossible and if so, expensive) and spending less on other necessities like gas and power (through the roof here, especially in the last few years).

This lack of a credit market is perhaps the primary reason our economy stinks. A twenty nine percent loan from Tony Soprano, I mean Wells Fargo or the neighborhood loan shark doesn't lead to much borrowing and much spending and much economic activity. But people hold on to those dreams of a free house, so let's just keep Article XII, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it severely limits the value of land, not to mention the racism that discriminates against those even born here. It is a blatant violation to the 14th Amendment and its equal protection clause. I'm not enough of a CNMI constitutional scholar to know how they get away with that. Plus valuable members of the community might actually stay here, where they have a home, instead of leaving as frequently as they do. Dr. Sawer and Dr. George, the two top surgeons at the hospital, just flew the coop. That is an enormous loss for this island. I don't know how many good teachers I've seen leave in the past couple years. They might stay if they had a home here. On top of that, people treat things they own a lot better than things they rent. People care more about their hometown, not their "apartment town." Remember your last rental car?

It would be amazing if something as prone to screw ups as the federal government actually fixes the three things most messed up here: wages, immigration and Article XII. They've finally started to fix one.
I've heard and talked to some Chamber members about the wage issue, and I don't think they'll meet and come up with this position, at least I hope, but here is what their president said. Granted there is the caveat, "who spoke as an individual business."
Following this argument, Guerrero said he doubts the increase in the paychecks
of minimum wage earners will be significant enough to spur economic
activity.“Those who will get a raise will continue to save their money for
more important things. They will still be cautious about spending. Besides,
with the increased cost of doing business, prices will go up everywhere
definitely,” he said.

First the prices retailers charge are scandalous. The wages they've been paying are equally scandalous. The implications of those wages are the demoralization of most people in the CNMI and a bloated, unsustainable bureaucracy. The price of most everything has gone up in the last eleven years, especially gas and power, are you telling me businesses can't adjust to paying .50 cents more after a government paid lobbyist earned millions in government money for this free ride all this time. Plus your telling me it destroys businesses, but won't help workers. Cmon.

“The wage increase is good for the employees, but bad for the employers. The
timing, everything is against us. Fifty cents at 80 hours is $40. Not many
businesses will be able to sustain this additional cost. You can expect layoffs,
reduction in work hours to take place,” said Guerrero, who spoke as an
individual business.
People will still buy food and tires and fix their cars and so on and so forth. I'm sure someone can make it work and pay a meager $3.55.
A quick thought on Tina Sablan. I loved her letter, and agreed with most all of it, and supported it publicly on multiple occasions. She is not, however, the only, or even the leading voice of protest on this island, as many letter writers would make people believe. Some people have been doing it a lot longer, a lot more regularly and before it was so trendy. I've also heard that she has not exactly played nice with Beautify CNMI.


glend558 said...

JEFF: Your thoughts about the chamber and mine seen to be alike. check it out.

Rose's Cafe said...


I agree it is time for Article XII to be scrapped, but history will show that it was US Representative Hayden Williams that insisted that this provision be included within the parameters of the Covenant.

Jeff said...

I think that was so it didn't get all bought up while this place was still developing. I have heard it wasn't intnded to be perpetual. I have heard about what you said.

G said...

i know for a fact that tina sablan has never claimed to be the leading voice of protest in the cnmi. what others will say of her or how they perceive her is their prerogative. if you ever analyzed what she has been doing you would realize that it is the exact opposite of that statement. she is encouraging everyone to voice their thoughts or opinions on subjects that concern them and then to champion them. she also does not want people to remain silent in hopes of a “voice that will lead them”.

your side note on her is petty and unwarranted. furthermore, in regards to your speculation and rumor concerning her relationship with BC , she is not so unapproachable that you could not get her take on the issue firsthand before publicly stating that she "has not played nice with bc". remember most of the time there are three sides to every story – yours, theirs and the truth.

glen hunter

p.s: using your logic, now that you have written a 3 part blog in the variety regarding blogging, are you now the “leading voice of blogging in the cnmi?” how unfounded does your conclusion seem now?

Jeffrey C. Turbitt said...

I never said she said that, read the sentence, I said others did.

It was a criticism of a handful of people who acted like she was the only one out there protesting this government, not of anything she said or did. I happen to agree with most everything she has said and done, and stated so publicly on multiple occasions.

As for her work with Beautify, I base my comment on several sources and will leave it at that. Don't be so overdefensive. No one is a saint, and Tina is a public figure now.

I wrote an objective newspaper story on bloggers in traditional journalistic format. I wasn't even part of it. I interviewed and quoted other bloggers, not myself, so I find your argument there rather tepid.

G said...

your remarks about her when taken in full context display an offensive and bitter tone ("she is not, however, the only...", "before it was trendy." "hasn't played nice")

as for the beautify thing, you said it well no one is a saint. In that case, your sources of this info would not be saints. so if you hear a rumor and want to publish it on your blog and it concerns someone you know, why not just shoot them an email or ask them personally about it.

if i posted something that you knew was untrue about one of your family members on my website perhaps you too would respond to it. i have no idea what the public figure comment means or if that is supposed to be justification for gossip-mongering?

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I, on the other hand, rightfully lay claim to being the leading voice for the people of the CNMI that live in my apartment.

Jeffrey C. Turbitt said...

Dude, your girlfriend is a public figure now who placed herself in the middle of things. She is in the paper every week. People are going to comment on things. It isn't always going to be genuflecting. I've supported her repeatedly on 99 percent of stuff. How about focusing on that for a second? There was nothing personal said, that's not my style, but the First Amendment would allow me that freedom. There isn't even anything a reasonable person would take as offensive.If she cares to comment on what I said, she's free, as is anyone else. Should I not say anything about Fitial because his wife might get mad? My comment was a gentle nudge about two important groups that should be aligned, but aren't. I don't care to go beyond that as it distracts from the real enemy on Capitol Hill. It's good to see she has her own Dick Cheney though.